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A Day Using Internet Explorer 8

  •  5-19-2014

About two weeks ago I was onsite at one of our bigger clients. As I settled down in front of the provided development machine I quickly noticed that the client still uses Internet Explorer 8 (mandatory of course) and there is no option to get approval for any other browser. So began a day of using Internet Explorer 8 exclusively to browse the web. And this is not an edge case as you might think! According to Sitepoint nearly 10% of internet users still use (or are forced to use) Internet Explorer 8 (tweet this). Let’s see how Internet Explorer 8 holds up in todays internet world. Some surprises ahead!

Pages That Work

For the first few hours I was really surprised: Every website I visited works as expected. Facebook, Amazon, Apple and BMW work just as good as in the latest version of Chrome. Hands down but I didn’t expect that. The only small flaw I found was on Twitter where some buttons did not look quite as they should but it was still totally usable in every way.
Now I understand better why more often than not clients expect that the latest project works in Internet Explorer 8: Nearly everything else they see works as well! Did you ever visit YouTube using Internet Explorer 8? While Google Maps has dropped support long ago YouTube still works flawless in this 5 year old browser.
So for your day to day browsing Internet Explorer 8 is still more than capable. (tweet this)

Pages That Don’t Work

But of course I wasn’t onsite to surf the web, I needed to get real work done. And that’s where things started to get tricky. Some applications I regularly use stopped working or warned me again and again that I was using an unsupported browser. Most prominent example here would be Google Docs followed by Feedly (mostly work!) and Tweetdeck (the web version).
Of course this is understandable because in most cases there is no valid business case to invest the time and effort to support an old browser. (tweet this) And optimizing for Internet Explorer can be hard! Still, using Internet Explorer 8 made my day harder, many tasks took longer than I would like them to and in the end I loved to get back to my native installation of Chrome.
Still, there is a workaround for nearly everything.

Overall Impressions

The first (and most painful) thing that you’ll notice with Internet Explorer 8 is the low performance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the performance was great in 2009 but today… Not so much. While the UI itself is fast enough to use the website performance can be low, more so if the page relies on JavaScript rather heavily.

Most of the time pages lack animations and scrolling down a page feels kind of clumsy if webfont’s are in use. On the other hand I’m rather impressed that not many sites display any visible problems and most fall back gracefully.

In summary you could say that the more consumer oriented a page is the better it supports Internet Explorer 8. (tweet this) Youtube is a great example as it works really good even in this old browser. Great engineering work there guys! 

Summary

If you are patient and forgiving you can still browse the web quite good with Internet Explorer 8. If you need to work inside the browser, maybe even in a JavaScript heavy application, you’ll soon curse Internet Explorer 8 for it’s lack of JavaScript performance. But can we really blame Microsoft here like many like to do? I don’t think so because Internet Explorer 8 is already more than 5 years ago. Do you still need to use Internet Explorer 8 (or even lower)? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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